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2012: Oct-Dec

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Scary Times for Parents...

Authorities to database all Accident and Emergency hospital visits by children

Link Here28th December 2012

Every child who visits hospital accident and emergency departments or has out-of-hours GP consultations will be logged in a national database from 2015.

The child protection information system is designed to help doctors and nurses spot children who are suffering from abuse or neglect.

Medical staff will be able to see if the children they treat are subject to a child protection plan, meaning they have already been identified as being at risk. Doctors and nurses will also be able to check if a child has been a frequent visitor to A&E over a period of time -- an indication of abuse or neglect.

The Department of Health said there was no centralised instant access system to tell if children had frequently had urgent treatment or a profusion of suspicious injuries like bruising, scratches, bite marks and burns.

Parents of course will be somewhat concerned that they would be treated with suspicion every time they brought their child to be treated in an emergency. Especially with the 'just in case' actions that are sure to follow any concerns registered by health workers.



Expensive Cookies...

Office of Fair Trading to investigate personalised pricing by online retailers

Link Here15th December 2012

Claims that online shoppers are being charged different prices by companies using software to detect the wealth of its customers are being investigated by the Office of Fair Trading.

The watchdog has responded to concerns that shoppers using Apple Macs or iPads and visiting top end websites might be charged more.

There are also growing numbers of anecdotal reports that suggest sophisticated systems are being used to raise prices on websites when they detect that shoppers are emotionally committed to a purchase. For instance, if someone who is looking at an airline site for flights has already browsed hotel options, it suggests that the search is more than casual.

The software analyses the trail of cookies, files maintained on the browsing computer by website software, reveal precisely where a particular shopper has been searching, giving retailers vital information about their preferences. As well as analysing the cookie trail, the personalised pricing software can work out the type of computer or device being used and its location. Certain devices, eg those made by Apple, are associated with higher spending consumers.

IT expert Tom Cheesewright said:

There is currently no hard evidence other than anecdotal that it is happening, but it is certainly technically possible. There are lots of references to it on internet forums and friends are already clearing cookies so they give nothing away.

Amazon is the only company known to have attempted personalised pricing when it briefly tried it in 2000. It backed down after customers became suspicious.



Offsite Article: We're no longer citizens, we're suspects...

Link Here15th December 2012
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
The new Communications Data Bill continues the trend away from privacy to giving the state full access to our private lives.

See article from



So what else will snoopers be looking for whilst they are at it?...

Credit reference agencies given the job of snooping into people's spending patterns

Link Here 14th December 2012

UK Credit reference agencies will implement data mining surveillance on people's spending patterns and then cross check with income declared on tax returns.

The agencies will identify high and medium risks of both illegal and legal tax avoidance and report those people to HM Revenue and Customs. Suspects will then be subject to more detailed tax scrutiny.

About two million people are expected to be investigated under the programme.

HMRC is already reporting successful results of a pilot programme involving about 20,000 people which will now be extended nationally. Treasury sources said that hundreds of millions are expected to be raised from the greater use of third-party data, such as that supplied by credit reference agencies.

Many of those who are expected to be identified are likely to be self-employed workers who are suspected of having under-declared their income to the authorities.



Offsite Article: How the Home Office let their Minister down...

Link Here13th December 2012
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
Open Rights Group outlines some the parliamentary criticisms of the Government's Snooper's Charter

See article from



Update: Too Nasty by Half...

Parliamentary committee sees through the government's bollox and reports on how nasty the Snooper's Charter really is

Link Here12th December 2012
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping

Ministers signalled they will rewrite the Snooper's Charter which gives police, security services and anyone else the government nominates new powers to snoop on communications. An influential parliamentary committee branded it overkill and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it needed a fundamental rethink .

Home Secretary Theresa May accepted the substance of a highly-critical report by the committee set up to scrutinise the draft version of the Bill, which would allow a range of official bodies to monitor emails, web phone calls and activity on social networking sites.

The committee of MPs and peers said the legislation would give the Home Secretary sweeping powers to issue secret notices ordering communications companies to disclose potentially limitless categories of data . And they accused the Government of using fanciful and misleading figures to support its case for the legislation.

Clegg said he was ready to block the Bill in its current form, and called on the Home Office to go back to the drawing board :

I believe the coalition Government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation.

We cannot proceed with this Bill and we have to go back to the drawing board. We need to reflect properly on the criticisms that the committee have made, while also consulting much more widely with business and other interested groups.



Kinecting Your Living Room to the License Police Station...

Reprehensible Microsoft idea to use the Kinect camera to spy on users

Link Here 19th November 2012

Microsoft has filed for a Kinect-related patent that would use the inbuilt camera monitor the number of viewers in a room and check to see if the number of occupants exceeded a certain threshold set by the content provider. If there are too many warm bodies present, the device owner would be prompted to purchase a license for a greater number of viewers.

The patent's various claims can endow a device with a limited number of performances in a given period of time, a limited number of users allowed to view such performances, and the continuous monitoring of viewers during those performances. It also covers the determination of when performance of the content to an identified user exceeds a threshold.



Offsite Article: Linx Reports on Parliamentary Debate about the Snooper's Charter...

Link Here 2nd November 2012
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
Theresa May faced tough questions when she appeared before the Joint Committee on the draft Communications Data Bill.

See article from



Big Brother National ID Card by the Back Door...

Government to unveil its Identity Assurance Programme

Link Here12th October 2012

The Government will announce details this month of a controversial national identity scheme which will allow people to use their mobile phones and social media profiles as official identification documents for accessing public services.

People wishing to apply for services ranging from tax credits to fishing licences and passports will be asked to choose from a list of familiar online log-ins, including those they already use on social media sites, banks, and large retailers such as supermarkets, to prove their identity.

Once they have logged in correctly by computer or mobile phone, the site will send a message to the government agency authenticating that user's identity.

The Cabinet Office is understood to have held discussions with the Post Office, high street banks, mobile phone companies and technology giants ranging from Facebook and Microsoft to Google, PayPal and BT.

Ministers are anxious that the identity programme is not denounced as a Big Brother national ID card by the back door, which is why data will not be kept centrally by any government department. Indeed, it is hoped the Identity Assurance Programme, which is being led by the Cabinet Office, will mean the end to any prospect of a physical national ID card being introduced in the UK.

The public will be able to use their log-ins from a set list of well known private organisations to access Government services, which are being grouped together on a single website called, which will be accessible by mobile. A cross-section of social media companies, high street banks, mobile phone businesses and major retailers has been chosen in order to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible.

Major web sites are able to recognise individuals by their patterns of use, the device they are accessing from and its location. Facebook, for example, asks users who sign on from an unusual location to take a series of security questions including identifying friends in photographs.



Offsite Article: Activists warned to watch what they say...

Link Here4th October 2012
Social media monitoring becomes next big thing in law enforcement. John Cooper QC said that police are monitoring key activists online and that officers and the courts are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to social media

See article from



Offsite Article: Big Brother is watching you more closely than ever...

Link Here4th October 2012
CCTV cameras, the spies in our midst. By John Kampfner

See article from



Tape Over that Camera and Microphone...

Warning that PC rental companies use intrusive surveillance to keep tabs on customers

Link Here3rd October 2012

Rented computers from seven different companies secretly took photographs of their users, US authorities have said.

The companies used software made by US company Designerware which enables the tracking of key strokes and personal data. The software, called PC Rental Agent, captured people engaging in intimate acts , including sex. Webcam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home were found.

A court settlement means the companies are banned from using the software which invaded the users' privacy. However, some software - such as location tracking - could still be used as long as the companies involved made it explicitly clear to the users.

It is believed that PC Rental Agent has been installed in approximately 420,000 computers worldwide.

The Federal Trade Commission ruling concerned a feature in the software, called Detective Mode, which is intended to be activated if the user was late in returning equipment, or failed to pay for use. Detective Mode would assist the rental store in locating the overdue computer in order to pursue its return.

Part of the technique included a pop-up window designed to look like a software registration screen. It would request personal information such as email addresses and telephone numbers. In addition, the FTC said the software had access to much more sensitive information, including: usernames and passwords for email accounts, social media websites, and financial institutions. Among the other data collected were social security numbers; medical records; private emails to doctors; bank and credit card statements.

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